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This Mexican-American’s Tweet Went Viral For Repping Their Culture And Non-Binary Gender Expression

Courtesy of Charlie Peña

Charlie Peña is an 18-year-old non-binary Mexican-American in Houston, Texas who is showing the world how to own your identity, unapologetically. The Cypress Falls High School senior shared photos of a magnificent Mexican dress they* got at the swap meet and people are living. Peña spoke to mitú about the response the tweet has received and the validation they hope others like them get from seeing their tweet.

*Peña asked mitú to use their preferred pronouns they/their/them for the story.

This is Charlie Peña with best friend and prom date Jenna.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Charlie Peña

“My original date could not make it so my best friend, Jenna, did a really cute proposal for me. I’m obsessed with RuPaul so it was cute,” Peña told mitú. “We were supposed to take pictures with our prom group but took so long to get ready. We ended up having to eat dinner at Taco Bell, which was totally fine.”

Peña recently went viral on Twitter with an unapologetic, non-binary, Chicanx pride post for prom.


Peña told mitú that they only recently started to use the term non-binary to express their gender identity. They are still getting used to the term but they feel much more comfortable with it now then late last year when they first started to use the term.

But what does non-binary mean? Don’t worry. Peña has an explanation.

CREDIT: Women’s History Month / GIPHY

“Being non-binary means that I do not identify myself with the male/female binary. I am genderfluid, which means that my gender identity varies over time,” Peña told mitú. “I don’t conform with a certain set of pronouns, either. She/They/He, I don’t mind. However, that doesn’t mean that other people who identify as non-binary feel the same way. It all depends on the person and what they’re comfortable with.”

Peña also made an impact by channeling their Mexican culture via their prom dress which they got at a swap meet.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Charlie Peña

“A lot of kids at my school make fun of it for being ‘ghetto’ or ‘too chunti.’ I like to go because there’s a lot to look at, and honestly I can’t find good quality huaraches anywhere else,” Peña told mitú. “I remember walking around with my mom looking for a fruit stand and seeing the full dress on a mannequin. I looked at my mom and I told her, ‘That’s it, ese es mi vestido.’ I tried it on and I knew it was the one. I bought it on the spot.”

Peña admits that some people questioned whether it was a good idea to wear that dress to prom. Peña responded with a resounding “sí.”

CREDIT: Courtesy of Charlie Peña

And for Peña, it was all about owning up to their culture and loving everything that makes them them.

Although there are always haters, Peña garnered lots of support for her tweet.


Peña told mitú that they were surprised at all the positive responses they got for their tweet. As for the occasional haters, they pay them no mind because they say they know their worth, their value, and it took them too long to get to the level of confidence they have to let some salty strangers bring them down.

Seriously, people could not get enough of Peña’s unapologetic proclamation to the Twitterverse.


“[I’m] genuinely surprised more than anything,” they told mitú about their tweet going viral. “I hadn’t been feeling my best that day, so the responses were really reassuring.”

“I hope those like me can see me and feel represented in some way,” Peña told mitú.


Peña knows what it is like to not see yourself represented in media as non-binary and hopes that their tweet can help others find that validation.

Peña’s choice of dress is all about them showcasing what they find beautiful.


“I find beauty in tradition. Although I loved the idea of getting super glam in a ball gown, it’s not really me. I like to honor my culture when it comes to events like this. We are living in times where our political climate is making it really difficult for Latinxs,” Peña told mitú. We are stigmatized in the media by our president. … We are people that deserve respect. By wearing the traditional dress that I did, I felt as if I was making that statement. I represent my people and our customs to make sure that we are seen.”


READ: Here’s Why People Are Getting Super Emotional Over This Father/Daughter Prom Tweet

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If You Grew Up In A Biracial Home, These Awkward Situations I've Dealt With Will Be Way Too Relatable

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If You Grew Up In A Biracial Home, These Awkward Situations I’ve Dealt With Will Be Way Too Relatable

Throughout my childhood, I never really identified as Afro-Latina. I was just a kid who happened to have two parents who celebrated two different cultures. My mom is Salvadoran and my dad is African-American. As much as I grew up loving the mix of these cultures, to others this was confusing.

Other Afro-Latinas or biracial people will relate to situations like these…

As an Afro-Latina, there are definitely a lot of ups and downs I encountered in regards to my identity and appearance. But one of the biggest downsides was that people often mistaken my mom for my babysitter.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

Since my mom is so light-skinned compared to my little brother and I, people always think she’s our babysitter.

And because people find it so hard to believe that she’s actually my mom, I get bombarded with questions like: “So…what are you???” 

CREDIT: GIPHY

I get this question almost every single time I meet someone. As annoying as it can be, I’ve decided to just let people struggle for a bit and guess for themselves. The most obvious guesses are Dominican, Panamanian, Hawaiian and Jamaican…all of which are incorrect.

And if for some reason they still can’t seem to wrap their minds around it, I take out my phone show them a picture.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

Yup, I always keep a picture of my family in my phone just in case they don’t shut up. 🙂

But when people aren’t bugging me about “what I am,” forms like these are what really frustrate me:

 

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any other option than to select “other” every time I fill out one of these forms. Sometimes there’s a glorious moment in which they give you the option of “two or more races,” but for the most part, I’m stuck between choosing Latino or Black – even though I’m both.

I often even felt limited when it came to speaking my own language.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

Growing up, my mom told us to keep our Spanish to a minimum if we knew that other people around us couldn’t speak or understand the language. Since my dad’s side of the family didn’t speak Spanish, I was taught that it could be seen as rude, disrespectful, or as if I was trying to hide something. But now that I’m older I’ve tossed those rules out the window. Every single person is entitled to speak whatever language they want – it’s part of their culture and their identity, and I’ll always be proud to be bilingual.

But having conversations with my mom completely in Spanish is one of the best feelings ever.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

My dad not being able to understand, nor speak Spanish actually works to my advantage sometimes, especially when I need to tell my mom something I don’t want my dad to know about. Those moments when I get to just sit down and talk to my mom in Spanish, without being criticized or interrupted, are some of the most comfortable moments ever.

As for food, it’s always the best of both worlds.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

With the combination of tamales, collard greens, pupusas and hot water cornbread, I *always* look forward to holiday family gatherings. No matter how culturally different my mom’s and dad’s family is, when my abuela and aunties come together in the kitchen, it’s freaking heaven…seriously the best combination ever.

And the same goes for the music.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

With my mom’s love for salsa and my dad’s love for old-school R&B, the party playlist at family gatherings is always LIT. Even if my dad’s side of the family doesn’t understand the lyrics to my mom’s Julio Iglesias jams, they still get up to dance and these are some of the most fun times ever.

Even though I faced frustrating situations for being Afro-Latina (aka myself), growing up with my bestie who was also raised in a dual-cultural household made situations like these more bearable.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

We both understood that we weren’t tied down to just one race, one culture, one identity. We both understood that being told we weren’t “Black enough,” “Mexican enough,” “Salvadorian enough,” or “Filipino enough,” was not a comment worth dreading on. We were ourselves, and that was always enough.

I felt like we were like the real Dragon Ball Z fusion – two in one – and we loved and embraced this every single day.

CREDIT: DRAGON BALL Z / OCEAN GROUP

Just like the fusion of Trunks and Gohan in Dragon Ball Z, being both Salvadorian and African-American only makes me a bigger and better person.

Despite the ups and downs, I’d never trade being the best of both minorities for anything.

CREDIT: CHRISTINA HENDERSON

I’ll always own it and forever be proud.


– By Christina Henderson, as told to Jessica Garcia.


READ: 11 Awesome Ways Latinos And Filipinos Are Totally Connected


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